News, nuggets and longreads 21 May 2022: Mothers of Sorrow

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from activism to lyricism.

First, a bit of news: German brewers are fretting about a shortage of beer bottles; global grain prices are rocketing; and UK pub chains are reporting serious “cost pressures”:

Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest listed pub company, said on Wednesday that it expected costs for the full year to be up 11.5 per cent to roughly £2bn compared with 2019 and to rise 6 per cent again next year depending on the “high volatility” of energy prices… M&B said it was reducing energy use, had increased menu prices by 3 per cent and was working on “cost mitigating procurement strategies” as companies across the sector battle rising prices on all fronts, including food, labour and fuel bills… “Ordinarily, with a company of our scale, if we have a food category where we see a product that spikes in price we can move to another product, but at the moment it is every category [that] is up,” said M&B chief executive Phil Urban.

So much for 2022 being the year when things “get back to normal”. As consumers, all we can do is keep drinking in pubs when we can afford to, and understanding the weird situation in which beer businesses are having to trade.

SOURCE: The Coven.

For Burum Ruvani de Silva profiles Pip Young and her Coven project, “an umbrella activist-collective hybrid… inspired by the beer industry’s well-documented #MeToo moment”:

Pip doesn’t just want to do something to combat sexism and gender-based discrimination and violence in beer, she has a strategy that utilises her own diverse skillset and simultaneously folds in her aims to make the industry more environmentally friendly. If this all sounds pretty ambitious, that’s because it is. But Pip has already hit the ground running, with several successful Coven-based projects on the go and more in the pipeline. The Coven now includes two collaboration brews, a stand at Leeds Beer Festival showcasing women in beer, a line of gorgeous merch and funding for its Wellness Officer programme to make beer events safer. Which is a huge amount to achieve in less than a year.

Dreaming of the pub

In the latest edition of his Substack newsletter, viewable online, Adrian Tierney-Jones writes lyrically about the appeal and importance of pubs:

The pub is where we go to meet people, to watch people, to be in the middle of the ebb and flow of people, to listen to people, to talk with friends, staff members and strangers, to sit quietly and mull over life’s charms as well as its predilection to turn predictions upside down, to laugh and cheer or softly discuss the way the world can take a turn for the better (and often the worse) when you least expect it. The pub is where we stand outside and take in the sun as it crosses the heavens on a beneficent summer’s day, glints of silver reflecting on the gunmetal grey of the canal waters just alongside, or maybe, conversely, we step inside its cool confines from the blazing sunshine or the arduous nature of a wet winter’s day and if we are lucky there will be a log fire crackling away by the bar, a source of warmth and gladness.


Peveril of the Peak

Dermot Kennedy’s heavily illustrated blog about pub architecture and design, Pub Gallery, is becoming one of our favourites. This week his focus is on pubs with tiled exteriors:

Tiling and ceramics in pubs was a way of making your pub stand out from your competitors. It started to be used in pubs as early as the 1880s and became hugely popular in the great pub building boom of the late 1890s and early 1900s. It was used both inside and outside the pub and although expensive, it had the practical benefits of being both long lasting and easy to clean. Ceramics had another mini boom in the inter-war years and was used in both new pubs and as part of pub restorations right up to the 1990s. Because tiling is so permanent and difficult to remove it has defied changes in fashion and it still decorates a considerable number of pubs today… Birmingham led the way with the red brick and terracotta pubs designed by the architects firm of James & Lister Lea.

Ian Thurman, champion of draught Bass, has observed something worrying on his travels – some pubs are busier than others and, in his opinion, the wrong ones are quiet:

First stop, Sunday lunchtime in Holden’s Golden Lion in Bridgnorth. A spotless pub with wonderful cask beers and friendly locals. Masses of free cheese and crisps on the bar to feed the punters. The mild went down very quickly, as would the other Holden’s beers if we didn’t have to leave after a pint and a beef and onion cob. Sad to report that on a Sunday lunchtime in a perfect pub there was only half a dozen customers… We exit perfection and walk past the nearby Wetherspoons. Packed outside and signs of more inside. That’s what many pub-goers want. Tim Martin knows the market and tightening purse strings will help him further.

For The Guardian David Whiting provides an obituary of a well-known publican, Geoff Fuller, who it turns out was more than that:

With its warm hospitality, good food and fine ales, [the Three Stags’ Heads, Wardlow Mires,] provided the best context for what he held most dear, making work to enhance the domestic space and the dinner table. There must have been drinkers quite unaware that the landlord serving them across the bar was one of the UK’s most remarkable artist-craftsmen. For Geoff, who has died aged 86, was a leading revivalist of native earthenware and slipware, producing low-fired pots and figurative work that drew not only on the vitality of pre-industrial pottery, but on Britain’s rich folk traditions.

Finally, from Twitter, evidence of what happens to your brain when you spend too long in the newspaper archives…

For more good reading check out Stan Hieronymus’s (brief) round-up from Monday and Alan McLeod’s from Thursday.

2 replies on “News, nuggets and longreads 21 May 2022: Mothers of Sorrow”

These titles are sort of a free association thing these days. Coven – witchcraft – brewing industry bad news – sorrow – Dario Argento’s ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy.

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